Penmanship Nostalgia

Posted on September 13, 2009


I was at the supermarket the other day when I saw this selection of stationery. My attention almost immediately drawn towards a stack of pretty notebooks.  I instantly picked up one that I liked and added it to my cart. The thought that I do very little actual writing didn’t stop me for a second. 

I don’t keep diaries. But I do write in notebooks. I buy very expensive ones too. Beautifully illustrated, hard back ones for even unsentimental activities like taking class notes or noting down random things. The actual process of picking up a pen and writing on crisp, perforated sheets fills me with the kind of satisfaction that no amount of tapping away on a key board does. Even when I take notes in class, I think of my writing as more than just jotting down. I write in full sentences given that I have an unusual hatred for short forms. I compose lines on the spot and write down everything in detail, page after page of verbose paragraphs, crafted with a lot more thought than they merit for later revision. My notes read more like essays and I never understand why I do it. Just that I have to. If I am not in the mood, I’d rather not take notes than suffer the abomination of noting down bullets or keywords. A sprinkling of words across a sparse landscape that seem to serve no purpose.

Handwriting is an extremely organic process. It’s stimulating, beautiful and spontaneous. It’s something you do for yourself. Typing on the other hand is deliberate and organized. It’ll never quite feel so artistic. It doesn’t even feel sexy. Compare the gentle and furious  movement of your fingers as they sweep and stroke in royal blue ink on an expanse of white and black as words seem to flow right from your brain to your finger tips, to the mechanical and monotonous typing sounds your fingers make as you stare away impassively at a screen.

Where’s the romance in something like that? The nostalgia, the art. The expectation that when you should revisit those writings, time would have faded the ink and the pages and made them that much more precious. Instead they’ll forever stare at you in brilliant LCD black, fresh as the day you keyed them in. Always perfect and flawless, hiding behind the even indents and the spaces, the scratches that you made or the words that you over wrote which will never be seen by anyone.  Its almost impossible to be confronted with a mental block while writing, almost like my hands would move of their own accord not over thinking the purpose of each word.

Sometimes when one gets tired of all the texting and the tweeting and the typing, there is something to be said for the quiet act of writing by hand. To hold in my hands the   product of my labour afterwards, so tangible and tactile.  But modern life demands conformism.  For the perfect lines and the clear, computer generated fonts. It doesn’t see the poetry of calligraphy. It settles for the dispassion of calculated typing because it doesn’t want to see the crudeness of spontaneous scrawls and repeated striking out of words and sentences that hide in their indecipherable quality- the passion that is the reason of their existence.  

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